Listmania: Top 20 Albums of 2010

This is it!

Last week the writers of Popdose counted down their favorite — and in some cases least favorite — records and singles of 2010. Thanks to the careful coordination of Michael Fortes, you’ve been able to peek behind the curtain at some of the individual lists that went into the creation of this, the Popdose Top 20 Albums of 2010. We polled the staff starting way back in October, asking simply: “What are your top 20 favorite records of 2010?”

Here are the top 20 answers to that question.

20. Black Keys – Brothers (Nonesuch)
Attack and Release was a damn fine album, and Danger Mouse a damn fine producer; the expanded instrumental palate employed on the record made for damn fine listening, even if it was a bit too tame by the band’s earlier standards. Not so with Brothers, which rattles your bones with its toughness and delivers many lyrical kicks to the groin before using Dan Auerbach’s white-boy-blues vocalizin’ to trip you and steal your lunch money.  It’s more accessible that Attack, and more representative of the blunt-force trauma the band is capable of employing at will. If I make it sound like an assault, good; by the end, you’ll be on all fours, begging for another punch. — Rob Smith
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19. Sade – Soldier of Love (Sony)
Sade lost me in the ’90s, but with Soldier of Love, I found myself just as enamored as I was back when I first got my hands on Stronger Than Pride. The angsty title track is a welcome new addition to the Sade palette, and the soothing breeziness of songs like “Be That Easy” can’t be overstated. Welcome back, Ms. Adu. We missed you, and we’re so glad that you’re as perfectly sultry as ever. — Michael Fortes
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18. Amy Petty – House of Doors (Red Pill)
Buy House of Doors
I’m not going to mince words: this record will seduce you, wrap you in Petty’s smokey vocals and promptly demand you to pay attention; because she has a story to tell you, and you are going to listen. The songs are intimate confessions of heartache, overheard conversations between lovers and friends, that you know you shouldn’t be listening to … but are compelled to, anyway. — Michael Parr

This is the kind I like best. From out of nowhere, in this case New Hampshire, a brilliant songwriter emerges and knocks the socks off of even the most jaded music writers. Not the sound, but the brilliant blazing soul of the late Laura Nyro is here at every moment of this powerful effort, and for that I am grateful. A stunning voice for the future. — Ken Shane

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17. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Say “Kanye West” to the average person, and I bet many of the adjectives that come to mind have nothing to do with his music. Hell, I’m as big a Kanye fan as there is and some not-quite-pleasant adjectives come to mind when I think of him. Even with that in mind, no matter how big his ego is and no matter how much of a crybaby he can be sometimes, no one has made albums as good as he has in the seven years since his debut. Fantasy is as compelling an argument as any that sometimes you have to tune out the personality and appreciate the music for what it is, because this album’s genius. For those who purchase music track-by-track and don’t quite understand where the magic is, it should also be noted that Fantasy is meant to be listened to as a complete album. — Mike Heyliger
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16. Devo – Something for Everybody (Warner Bros.)
There was no real need for Devo to return. Perpetual co-leaders Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh were doing quite well scoring movies and TV. The synthetic sound of the ’80s was past its prime, and their satirical bent didn’t seem all that necessary anymore. Funny how things turn in cycles. Guitars have stepped back behind the drums, leaving synths as the dominant instrumentation of the decade. The insanities of human foibles and desires have once again reached critical mass and, suddenly, Devo went from being out-of-date to being more relevant than ever. None of that would matter if the new songs were terrible. Sure, they could claim the track-listing was constructed by focus groups, an assertion I still don’t fully buy into. Sure, their big internet listening party was attended only by cats wandering around a big blue ‘power helmet’, but the bottom line is that what the world didn’t need now was another old band reforming with nothing to actually say. Luckily, songs like “Later Is Now” and “No Place Like Home” have something in mind, while others including “Step Up” and “Please Baby Please” haven’t forsaken the fun factor. The album sounds like vintage Devo with modern technology, and if you’re going to return, you might as well do it as yourselves. — Dw. Dunphy
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15. Guster – Easy Wonderful (Aware/Universal Republic)
Boston’s alt-popsters always make me happy, even when they’re singing about breakups, premature death, and other nightmares of the human condition.  The trick is in their minor-key melodies and busy arrangements that somehow sound simple, as well as in the weary but hopeful voice of Ryan Miller, the bands everyman lead singer.  From the clap-along tempo and flawless chorus of “Do You Love Me” to the piano-driven positivism of “Bad Bad World,” to the synth pulse of the album-closing “Do What You Want,” Easy Wonderful isn’t just the ear-pleasing concoction we’ve come to expect from the guys who made Lost and Gone Forever over a decade ago.  It’s a damn-near-perfect pop record—an absolute necessity in these troubled times. — RS
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14. The National – High Violet (4ad Records)
For many years, The National has been the name tossed around by the indie rock fans in the know, but just often as the band’s name has been invoked, it’s been placed in tandem with usual culprits – Joy Division, Radiohead, you can guess the rest. On High Violet, The National moved into a more measured pace, more orchestrated arrangements and, through that, the chance to be the stars of the spotlight without the nagging comparisons. Not that it should have been necessary.The groupings already neglected what Messrs. Berninger, Dessners and Devendorfs were bringing to the table, but the anxious, nervous energy of “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” the voice of regret on “Anyone’s Ghost” and the gospel of remorse in “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” not only put distance from their earlier releases, but from their contemporaries as well. In all, the album is designed to haunt the listener for weeks after the first experience, and you’re likely to find these songs returning for years to come. They may have been the darlings of those in the know, but with High Violet, this band became The National, an entity unto themselves. — Dw.
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13. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms (Columbia)
Easy way to make me melt? Sing in harmony. Featuring the most melodically sound music of their career, Band of Horses broke through to the mainstream with their third album, Infinite Arms. Hearing these songs performed in a live and intimate setting made me love the album even more, even though the recent video for “Dilly” is one of the more head-scratching clips of 2010. Infinite Arms is definitely the sunny-day-long-drive-to-nowhere album of the year. — MH
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12. Steve Poltz – Dreamhouse (Red General Catalog)
Brimming with feel-good California vibes, the warmth of acoustic folk rock and nylon string classical guitar, and incredibly well-crafted songs, Steve Poltz’s Dreamhouse is a marvel of skillful songcraft. Best of all, Steve’s positive and witty personality shines through all the craftsmanship, forever imprinting his work with the beauty of humanity. Or to boil it down to three words, “easy to love.” — MF
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11. Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday (Cash Money)
You know that Nicki Minaj is a bad mutha …Well, with Nicki she’ll complete that word and add some additional rhymes that’ll certainly make your mother blush. Is it all an act? A split personality from a messed up childhood that makes her want to unleash a barrage of profane, but artfully crafted slams against all who dare cross her? Whatever the case, Minaj has created lyrics with usual the bombast and swagger that’s par for the course in hip-hop but has added something that’s closer to the blues in tone rather than style on Pink Friday. There are some impressive guest stars on the album (Rihanna, Kanye, Drake, and Eminem), but even with those heavy-hitters, Minaj is clearly the star of the show. And if you don’t believe her, well, as Darling Nicki says in “Blazin:” Game over, bitch.  Gatorade…wet towel. – Ted Asregadoo
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10. Prince – 20Ten (NPG Records)
I’m not sure what paid critics heard on 20Ten that I didn’t (it hasn’t gotten very good reviews) and I know that as my favorite artist I may be a little biased, but I’m under no illusion that everything the purple one touches is gold. However, 20Ten is a throwback record with smooth ballads and a ton of ridiculously good old-school funk. It’s his best album in many, many years without question. — Dave Steed
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9. Sleigh Bells – Treats (Mom & Pop Music)
In my review of this record earlier this year, I talked about how this band is one that people either love, hate or dismiss due to hype and that “hipster bullshit” was a phrase I’d often seen used to describe their music. Well, apparently, hipster bullshit is pretty enjoyable because Treats is making year-end best-of lists all over the place. Released on M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T. label, Treats did pretty well on the Billboard 200 charts, making it all the way to #39, which is pretty great for a little indie record. Packed with loud, compressed, screechy, grungy, crunchy, dance rock tracks, Treats might take some getting used to, but it’s well worth the effort. For my money, the standout tracks are “Kids,” “Rill Rill,” “Crown on the Ground” and “Tell ‘Em.” — Kelly Stitzel
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8. The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever (Vagrant Records)
I hadn’t really connected with Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady previously, but something about this record resonated so deeply with me that I actually had to take a break from listening to it, for fear of over-exposure. — MP
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7. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah, Part Two (Return of the Ankh) (Motown)
Where Part One was easier to admire than enjoy, Part Two is easily as much of a breeze to both enjoy and admire as Erykah’s first two classic studio albums. Badu, you are gem of American music, you keep us on our toes, and it should never be a crime for you to run naked anywhere in this great land. — MF
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6. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More (Glass Note)
Despite what you may think, it’s not all weepie folk songs on Mumford & Sons’ debut album, Sigh No More. Their infectious blend of traditional English folk and rock flourishes with lyrics that have a good amount of literary heft make this band a welcome addition to those who may desire a lighter version of Flogging Molly. “Little Lion Man” is clearly the most hook-filled song on the album, but the other tunes are certainly growers that’ll have you raising a mug and singing along like patrons at some country pub in Britain in short order. — TA
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5. Crowded House – Intriguer (Fantasy)
2010 may have been a banner year for new albums from old bands, but few had the vitality that Neil Finn and company displayed on this release.

The thing is that even though the new songs are that good, and worthy of praises galore, the listener needs to provide leeway here. There is an edgy, grimy feel to the instrumentation that those expecting “Don’t Dream It’s Over Again” might rebel against, but be patient. It’s worth your efforts to sit back and let Intriguer be Intriguer. — Dw.

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4. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Merge Records)
While I adored Arcade Fire’s first album, I was not very enamored of their sophomore effort, Neon Bible. So, I went into my first listening of The Suburbs with hesitation and I’m very happy to report that the Arcade Fire I first fell in love with is back. I know it’s probably expected that they’ll show up on best-of lists this year, but they deserve it. Their most ambitious project yet, at 15 tracks, The Suburbs could’ve easily found the band overreaching. But it doesn’t at all — every note, every lyric works perfectly. I would even go so far as to say this is their best album yet. — KS
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3. John Legend & The Roots – Wake Up! (Columbia)
As a general rule, I hate covers albums. They’re usually unimaginative and uninspired. Leave it to one of my generation’s best soul singers and the best band in hip hop-nay, the best band in music to go against the grain. This hard-hitting collection of reimagined soul tunes from the Seventies (with a couple of stragglers from the early Eighties) is so strong it almost makes you forget to question why no one in R&B writes songs like these anymore. — MH
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2. Robyn – Body Talk (Cherry Tree)
This is arguably the strongest of the three installments of albums Robyn released this year under the Body Talk title (though, I love them all). Six of the eight tracks are a little piece of dance/pop brilliance, with “Dancing On My Own” standing out as one of the hottest singles released by anyone all year. Rounding out the album are two slower songs — a piano/strings version of “Hang with Me,” the ultimate ode to “friends with benefits,” and “Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa,” a gorgeous ballad sung in Robyn’s native Swedish — both of which could’ve sounded out of place next to the high-energy tracks that fill the rest of the record, but they fit perfectly. Robyn is well on her way to yanking the Queen of Pop crown from Madonna’s head — hell, I think she already has. — KS
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1. The Roots – How I Got Over (Def Jam)
I admit to being a late-comer as a fan of the Roots and How I Got Over is the first proper record of theirs I’ve owned (and, yes, I am catching up with their back catalogue). I’m blown away by the sophistication they bring to the table with every single track. I mean, how many R&B/rap groups do you know that would sample Joanna Newsom? Also, I kind of have a Twitter crush on ?uestlove. — KS

The Roots are one of those bands that I’ve come to take for granted. Not only have they served up musical brilliance on a platter consistently for nearly a decade and a half, but they’ve given me pretty much the only reason to watch late night TV I’ve had since Arsenio Hall went off the air in 1994. To say How I Got Over is an exceptional Roots disc doesn’t do justice to how brilliant the album or the band is. Black Thought, ?uestlove and co. are simply the torchbearers for musicianship, intelligence and maturity in hip-hop and have amassed the most consistent catalog of any artist, regardless of genre, in music today. – MH

For those who thought becoming the house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” would somehow diminish the Legendary Roots Crew, 2010 was the year you were all proved wrong. How I Got Over is possibly the groups most consistent work yet; not a second is wasted, giving the record a real sense of urgency. — MP

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  • Tabatha

    Intriguer by Crowded House is my album of the year
    Just amazing, I’m still listening to it everyday

  • lucy

    Steve Poltz- Dreamhouse is my favorite on the list. Freat Review

  • MaNpa Poltz

    We are very proud of you. Deramhouse is a wonderful album and of course, one of our
    favorites. Love, MaNpa